“You have arrived at your destination,” says the sat-nav. Really? If you look around at the deserted valley you’re in the middle of, all you’ll be able to see is a fireroad disappearing up into the trees. If you investigate further though, you’ll learn you’ve come to the right spot – but it’s only a discrete wooden signpost and trail map that give it away. Beside the sign is an honesty box for track maintenance donations. Make sure to leave your offerings to the trail gods – otherwise, who knows what might happen out on the loop? Feeling assured of some good karma, you can saddle up and head out from the hinterland into the wilds of North Wales. We did just this in the Summer issue of MBUK, when the MBUK Wrecking Crew visited Penmachno.
Red – Dolen Machno & Dolen Eryri: Penmachno has two rugged and wild red-graded loops. One, the Dolen Machno trail, is 19km and the other, the Dolen Eryri trail, is 11km. The Dolen Eryri branches off the Dolen Machno and can be ridden as an extension of it, or as an individual loop. Both are characterised by rugged singletrack that winds its way through forests and across moorlands, with epic views and technical features to keep on your toes. The Dolen Machno loop has 560m of climbing, while the Dolen Eryri has only 206m. The wild and untamed nature of the two trails means you’ll need to keep on your toes when riding them, and even the smallest of mistakes can be quite costly.
Follow the A5 west and then take a left turn onto the B4406. Follow this through the village of Penmachno and continue for around half a mile. The car park for the trails is on your right, just up the fireroad. LL240YP is the nearest postcode, but it won’t take your sat-nav right there, instead here is the location of the carpark.
Betws-y-Coed: A short 15-minute drive away from Penmachno is another Welsh classic that boasts two red-graded trails (25km and 8.7km). There’s been lots of digging work going on recently, so they should be in prime shape. www.mbwales.com
Antur Stiniog: If you fancy upping the ante, then check out the uplift venue of Antur Stiniog. There are several tracks, ranging from blue to double black, so it’ll suit anyone from intermediate trail riders through to downhill pros. www.anturstiniog.com
Why ride here?
Rough, rocky descents, swooping singletrack and stunning views aplenty.
What’s rad and what’s bad?
Across wide-open moors and through tight and twisty woods, there’s a bit of everything here.
The trails may only be graded red but there’s plenty of natural gnar to keep you on your toes.
With big hills and remote singletrack, you’ll forget you’re riding at a trail centre.
Drainage is an issue on some parts of the loop.
Some of the linking sections feel like they go on for a while and aren’t very feature-packed.
The bottom line
The Penmachno trails strike an excellent balance between natural and manmade. Even though the majority of the loop is purpose-built, many sections have a feel more akin to something found in the midst of Snowdonia or the Scottish Highlands which makes Penmachno one of the wildest and most rugged riding spots in North Wales. What lets Penmachno down is the condition of the trails. Granted, we visited after heavy rain, but the gullied-out nature of the singletrack meant that many sections were running like streams and other parts were very waterlogged. Some drainage work is definitely required.
For our complete report on Penmachno and more, grab a copy of issue 344 here. And buy a copy of the latest issue of the mag to keep up with our Wrecking Crew reports!
Features Editor Alex calls the mellow rolling hills of Dorset home, but before he started on MBUK, he lived in The French Alpine town of Morzine for seven years. Here he developed a scary ability to make the steepest and gnarliest trails look like a walk in the park. Occasionally his speed caught up with him, resulting in several bone crunching crashes at World Cup downhill level. Since hanging up his racing shoes Al regularly clocks up a massive weekly mileage on his trail bike, so is one of our hardiest testers.